Saturday, December 22, 2012

Les Miserables (2012)


Year: 2012
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen

Before I begin my review….
With the exception of some films which definitely don’t stand a chance, this section of my reviews should be renamed, “ Let’s Talk About Nominations” for the next few months.
And this is one of those films that should.
The big question on everyone’s lips when it comes to Les Miserables and the Oscars or Golden Globes is whether this is Anne Hathaway’s year. One might argue that it has been already with her recent marriage to Adam Shulman and two career milestones playing Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises and Fantine in Les Miserables, but a golden statue or two might just top this off for her.
In all honesty, just from seeing the trailer to Les Miserables I was already in belief that she was going to win the Oscar. I’d tear up every time I heard her sing “I Dreamed A Dream” and I thought that if she was able to do that to me in the trailer, what could she do in the film?
And yes, I was in tears when she sang the whole song in the film. Hathaway has come a long way since we first saw her in The Princess Diaries eleven years ago. She is brilliant every second she is on screen in Les Miserables, but it is in that 4 minutes and 40 seconds of “I Dreamed A Dream” that she has given one of the best performances of a female actress of the year.
Well, I have actually yet to see better if there is going to be.
Team Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture.
And Team Jackman for Best Actor In A Musical/Comedy at the Golden Globes. He’s not to be forgotten in the Hathaway hype. If all goes his way, there may well be an Oscar nomination there for him too.
Les Miserables will have its lovers and haters and people will love it for the reasons people will hate it.
If you are familiar with the stage production, then you will love it for how true the film stays to it. However, if you are not and are not prepared for two and a half hours of song with barely any spoken dialogue, then you are probably going to be wishing you were outside the cinema doing something else for that period of time.
Yet, there is no denying that Les Miserables is a beautiful film with amazing cinematography, music and some of the best acting performances of the year. Not to mention you can tell how much hard work has gone into this epic production by director, Tom Hooper.

Based on one of the world’s most popular musical’s and the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables is set in 19th century France.  Newly released prisoner, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) violates his parole and Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) is in constant pursuit of him. Valjean turns his life around after being shown kindness by a priest. He encounters a young woman, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who has turned to prostitution in order to care for her young daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried) and his life is forever changed. He raises Cosette as his own and together they travel to Paris where their journey eventually takes them to the June Rebellion.

Tom Hooper has certainly put his heart and soul into this film, there is no doubting that. Gone are the days when singing is dubbed into the film, as Les Miserables contains all live performances by each of the actors. The musical numbers are wonderfully choreographed and the editing splendid. When you look at how much power is behind the majority of these voices and the brilliant acting that goes along with that, doing that over and over would be an extremely gruelling and exhausting process.

Although the cinematography is breath-taking the majority of the time, there are some moments where it is completely obvious that this is a green screen moment for the stars. Some of the CGI which is supposed to make you believe that characters are actually in a location such as the shipping yard and the night sky of Paris, seem more like live actors set against an animated backdrops.
The highlights of the film are the musical spectacles and the acting involved in them. As these are the focus point, some of the relationships between the characters get lost and the story slows down. This is what can be frustrating about the film. It is a long film and although Hooper tries to make the most of every scene (which he nearly does), the story slows down and you are sometimes so caught up in the main songs that you almost forget what is going on and why they are actually singing the song. However, this is what the musical is all about on stage so it is Hooper staying true to its basis.
Hooper has once again proved that he can direct movie stars to some of their best work. Hugh Jackman  gives his first musical big screen performance (not counting Happy Feet). While no stranger to working in stage musicals, on screen this is new territory for him and he is brilliant. He is captivating from the opening scene of the film and gives an emotionally charged performance. Not to mention his absolutely exquisite singing voice he makes the most of.
Anne Hathaway gives the performance of her career as Fantine. She completely personifies the character and is heartbreaking from her first moment on film to her last. “I Dreamed A Dream” is one of the most amazing musical moments on film in years, where you almost forget that she is singing this beautiful song as you are so captivated by the way her character’s heart is breaking at the realization that all the happiness and freedom to dream happy dreams has been sucked out of her by life.

Russell Crowe is quite lack lustre compared to Jackman and Hathaway. Although he is not bad by any means, he doesn’t give off as cruel a vibe as one would hope in the “villain” of the film. He is serious and there is no problem believing that he is law abiding, but you don’t see in him any of the feelings he is professing to feel when he sings. Therefore his climax in the film does not really seem justified.
Amanda Seyfried, though sweet, is over-shadowed by her fellow actors. She is a lovely Cosette, but Isabelle Allen, who plays the younger Cosette, is even lovelier.
Eddie Redmayne also gives his career best performance so far. It’s actually a lovely shock as to how good he really is in Les Miserables , as he gives a completely different performance to anything he has ever done on screen. “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” is his moment in the film where he shines and shows how much talent he really has.
Samantha Barks makes her film debut as Epinone, a role she has played previously on London’s West End. What a film debut. ”On My Own” is one of the best known Les Miserables songs and Barks performs it with such ease and natural beauty, although it is again one of the most heart breaking moments on screen. During “A Heart Full Of Love” in which Seyfried, Redmayne and Barks all sing, you just want to hear more of Barks.
And Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are a fantastic team as the comical inn-keepers. Daniel Huttlestone, who plays young Gavroche also gives a wonderful breakthrough performance.
Les Miserables is a must see for any musical fans and especially fans of the original stage musical. Those who aren’t won’t understand the hype, but still won’t be able to deny some of the best acting of the year.

The Official Les Miserables Site
USA Today
The Internet Movie Database

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